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Rajammal Vs. S.N. Thyagaraja Aiyar and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1935Mad655; (1935)69MLJ202
AppellantRajammal
RespondentS.N. Thyagaraja Aiyar and anr.
Cases Referred and Kattiya Pillai v. Ramaswami Piliai
Excerpt:
.....been called upon to decide is a difficult one, but it is not suggested that a better or safer method is..........enhancement of maintenance need not now be examined; but the difference is fundamental between a suit for maintenance and a suit for a. reduction thereof; in one case it is the person that is entitled to the allowance that brings it; in the other, the person liable to pay it. to describe therefore a suit such as this as a 'suit for maintenance', would be to pervert and misapply the words of the statute, and i must therefore reject that contention. the further contention, namely, that section 7(iv-a) (mad.) which refers to a 'suit for cancellation of a decree for money', applies is equally untenable. the object of the present suit is not to get the previous decree cancelled but to get it varied. when a person impeaches a decree on the ground that it was at no time binding upon him, the.....
Judgment:

Venkatasubba Rao, J.

1. This suit has been brought to get the rate of maintenance awarded under a decree, reduced on the ground that circumstances have since changed. The questions raised in the Civil Revision Petition pertain to court-fee and jurisdiction. While Section 7(ii) of the Court-Fees Act refers to suits for maintenance, there is no provision in the Act dealing with suits for enhancement or reduction of maintenance. It has been argued that even such suits should be regarded as 'suits for maintenance' within the meaning of the Act. The soundness of this argument in regard to suits for enhancement of maintenance need not now be examined; but the difference is fundamental between a suit for maintenance and a suit for a. reduction thereof; in one case it is the person that is entitled to the allowance that brings it; in the other, the person liable to pay it. To describe therefore a suit such as this as a 'suit for maintenance', would be to pervert and misapply the words of the statute, and I must therefore reject that contention. The further contention, namely, that Section 7(iv-A) (Mad.) which refers to a 'suit for cancellation of a decree for money', applies is equally untenable. The object of the present suit is not to get the previous decree cancelled but to get it varied. When a person impeaches a decree on the ground that it was at no time binding upon him, the action may properly be regarded as one for the cancellation of that decree; but in such a suit as the present, the plaintiffs, far from impugning the decree, acknowledge its validity. Till another decree is passed varying the previous decree, it is binding upon the parties; all acts done and all payments made under it are valid and cannot, even after the second decree is passed, be questioned. The contention that Section 7(iv-A) applies, must therefore be rejected.

2. The contention again, that by analogy the notional valuation provided by Section 7(ii) for suits for maintenance should be extended to actions of this kind, is equally fallacious. The legislature has arbitrarily said, that in suits for maintenance, the fee payable is to be computed, on the amount claimed as payable for one year. This is an artificial rule owing its existence solely to legislative sanction, and to extend such a rule to cases to which the statute does not expressly apply it, would be wrong and opposed to reason. The argument therefore based upon analogy is clearly out of place.

3. The lower Court has held that Article 17-A (Mad.) or Article 17-B (Mad.) of Schedule II applies in the alternative. The former Article refers to a suit 'to obtain a declaratory decree where no consequential relief is prayed'. I am not prepared to hold that this description applies. The view, however, that Article 17-B is applicable, seems, in my opinion, well-founded. That Article refers to a suit 'where it is not possible to estimate at a money value the subject-matter in dispute and which is not otherwise provided for by this Act'. Having regard to the inadequate and unsatisfactory nature of the provisions of the Court Fees Act I must hold, in the absence of a more precise provision, that this is the Article that applies.

4. So much for the question of the court-fee that has been raised. Now turning to the point of jurisdiction, I fail to see how, as the lower Court erroneously assumes, the decision on the question of court-fee, can conclude the question of jurisdiction. In cases where the court-fee valuation must be adopted for the purpose of jurisdiction also, the two questions need not be separately considered; but here the position is entirely different. Though the Act for court-fee purposes provides an artificial valuation, the plaintiffs for the purpose of jurisdiction are, I think, bound to assess the relief they claim, on the basis of the value of the benefit they seek to obtain by the filing of the suit. Rachdppa Suhrao v. Shidappa Venkairao (1918) L.R. 46 IndAp 24 : I.L.R. 1918 43 Bom. 507 : 36 M.L.J. 437 (P.C.), Rattayya v. Brahmayya : AIR1925Mad1223 , Vasireddi Veeramma v. Butchayya I.L.R. (1926) 50 Mad. 646 : 1926 52 M.L.J. 381 and Kattiya Pillai v. Ramaswami Piliai : AIR1929Mad396 . The question then arises, by what method is this benefit to be assessed? The plaintiffs claim that the maintenance should be reduced by roughly Rs. 500 a year. The benefit that would accrue to them would depend upon the duration of the widow's life. A question of this sort does not seem to have been ever decided, but I think, the solution may be sought in the mortality tables constructed for life assurance purposes. In the case of Indian lives, the Government Actuary's Report on Rates of Mortality in India, dated 1920, contains the following passage:

It is recommended that for the general body of Indian lives assured after medical examination, for whole life with profits, the ultimate mortality should be represented by a standard table with a constant addition to the age (e.g., + 7 for O.M. (5) + 6 1/2 for H (M) or + 6 for H (M) (5).

Life Assurance Text-book by Simmonds and

Hooker, (1929) Edn., p. 150.

5. The age of the widow in the present case is said to be about 33 and the expectation of life of such a person is, having regard to the above observation, about that of the standard table for an age seven years older. In the case of a female, the column that is relevant is that headed 'OF' at page 127 of the Journal of the Institute of Actuaries, Vol. 44, part II, April 1910; against the age of 40, the expectation is given as 28-293. The reduction therefore which the plaintiffs seek to obtain, will normally hold good for that period, i.e., approximately for 30 years. In other words, the plaintiffs, if they succeed in obtaining the decree they seek, will be saved 30 payments of Rs. 500 each; it is the present value of the thirty future payments spread over thirty years that has to be ascertained. It is unnecessary to make a calculation with precision; the commuted value on any computation (that is to say, whatever the rate of interest adopted from 3 per cent, is) is much over Rs. 5,000, i.e., far beyond the limit of the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Munsif's Court. I am aware that special factors existing in the case of a particular individual, such as deviation from the normal type, may render the mortality table inapplicable, but nothing being proved, the ordinary method must be applied. The question I have been called upon to decide is a difficult one, but it is not suggested that a better or safer method is available.

6. My order therefore is, that the District Munsif on the Receipt of the records shall return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court. I make no order as to the costs of the Civil Revision Petition. The defendant's costs in the lower Court incurred so far are fixed at Rs. 50, which the plaintiffs shall pay in any event.


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